Twelve practical points I have learned from my years in cattle veterinary practice:
1. Don’t skimp on vaccines. Generic drugs are one thing, but when it comes to vaccines, the nationally recognized name brand is better. Animals have fewer reactions and (I believe) have a better immune response. Plus, if you do have a question or problem, the national companies have quality, knowledgeable people (via phone or internet) to help.
2. Buy a McGrath stomach pump. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite tools to use on farms. (No, I am not a paid spokesperson, but I should be!) This pump makes it so much easier for one person to give oral electrolyte fluids by him or herself. Almost all of my clients have bought one after they have seen me use mine. It’s a bit pricey, but so worth it!
3. When a cow aborts, pick up what you can of the fetus and placenta, put it in a garbage bag and store it in the refrigerator (not the freezer). You never know if you are on the verge of an abortion “storm”, so it’s always helpful to have samples from two or three fetuses to be able to submit to a lab. (Don’t forget to throw it away in a few days if this ends up being the only one.)
4. Learn how to IV baby calves. Generally when a calf is sick with diarrhea, the dehydration kills them faster than the infection causing the diarrhea. Calves can go from normal, to sick, to comatose in just a few hours, especially in hot weather. Many of my farms have been amazed that I have literally “brought calves back from death’s door.” Since I can’t be everywhere all the time, I’ve trained qualified farm personnel to IV calves themselves when I just can’t get there fast enough.
5. Test your herd routinely for BVD. (My favorite test is the ear notch.) It’s easy and relatively inexpensive. I continue to be amazed by what other problems we have cleared up in herds once we were able to identify and remove the BVD carriers. Many of these problems were seemingly, at the time, unrelated to BVD.
6. Set up a protocol on what to with “difficult to get pregnant” cows. In my herds with success in getting cows in calf, the key was deciding that cows open at a particular time (whether by the calendar or days in milk), got a different treatment. This could mean making her an embryo recipient, pasture breeding to a bull, inseminating to high fertility semen, etc. It didn’t necessarily “matter” what the treatment was, the fact was that they did something different.
7. Perform regular maintenance on your milking equipment. This is the “harvester of your crop.” Regular maintenance is essential to keeping mastitis problems at a minimum.
8. If you can afford it, necropsy animals that die of unknown causes. I and the herd owners continue to be surprised at what information we find on cows whose death would be otherwise characterized as “oh well.”
9. Encourage a good relationship between your veterinarian and nutritionist. Nutrition and health go hand and hand. Let these two people work together to help keep your animals healthy.
10. You can never be too clean. This includes the calving area, milking parlor, calf hutches and pens, work pens, ….shall I go on?
11. Have good facilities for you and/or your veterinarian to examine and treat animals. It is important to make sure animals can be examined thoroughly while people can stay safe.
12. Don’t consider yourself a dairy producer or beef producer. Replace the word dairy or beef with food. How would you do things differently?
About the Guest Blogger:
Kathy Swift is a large animal veterinarian in Florida. She has been treating dairy and beef cattle on farms of all sizes since 1997. She also creates a line of agriculturally themed jewelry available at www.cowartandmore.com
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